Congress, other parties brainstorm common strategy against CAB
The Union Cabinet cleared on Wednesday the draft legislation that proposes citizenship for religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.Updated: Dec 06, 2019 05:55 IST
The Congress and other opposition parties are set to join forces to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which is likely to be introduced in Parliament in the next few days.
The Union Cabinet cleared on Wednesday the draft legislation that proposes citizenship for religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It looks to fulfil a key election promise of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has set the stage for a parliamentary showdown.
According to officials in the Lok Sabha, the bill has gone for printing and might be circulated among parliamentarians on Friday morning.
The opposition parties went into a huddle on Thursday morning to decide a common strategy. Their campaign will focus on certain key issues. The meeting, held at Rajya Sabha leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad’s chamber in Parliament, was attended by parties such as the Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party and Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party. The Shiv Sena, who snapped ties with the BJP last month, was not present, according to two Opposition leaders.
Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien said the first point which would be highlighted by the Opposition is that the proposed bill “insults” Babasaheb Ambedkar and the founding fathers of the nation. The Opposition will point out that the bill goes against the basic principles of the Indian Constitution, which has never put any religious criteria for obtaining Indian citizenship.
The bill proposes to make people from Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Parsi faiths who entered India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for citizenship.
For the next five days, or till the bill doesn’t come to the House for passage, opposition parties and its MPs would focus on these issues to create public opinion.
The second talking point, discussed in the meeting, is that the bill will set different criteria for citizenship. The bill is unlikely to cover areas under the Sixth Schedule, and the three states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram where a visitor requires the Inner Line Permit. Opposition leaders, according to a Congress strategist, will question why the new citizenship law will leave out certain places, creating two separate criteria for becoming an Indian citizen.
The government has indicated that it doesn’t want to include these places as several indigenous communities have voiced their concerns that outsiders might settle in their areas and thereby disturb the existing social structure.
The Congress and other parties will try to project CAB as an anti-tribal bill as it would affect many tribal communities in the northeast. The parties also plan to turn the tables on the BJP by using Assam’s National Register of Citizen (NRC), which has left out 1.9 million people, in its campaign against CAB. O’Brien said, “The NRC and CAB are a package. They can’t be de-hyphenated. NRC didn’t work out in one state and now the government wants to do expand it to 27 states.”
Senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said, “There is not one but multiple issues related to this bill. Ignoring for the time being that the government is trying make it the first law of the land based on religious classification, I must say that they are bringing this bill to divert attention from precious issues of economy... If one state, Assam, has seen lakhs of errors, I wonder how the CAB will carry on verification and validation. It will be only harassment and fear among large sections of the population.”